FIFA 14's next-gen outing will introduce 1080p visuals, more realistic crowds as well as more believable behaviour from its players.
Developed by a new team within EA's Vancouver studio, work has been taking place on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of FIFA 14 for the past two years. It's the debut of EA Sports' Ignite engine, which is behind many of EA Sports' next-gen titles.
"A lot of that time was getting the FIFA that was working on it and then taking that and running with it," EA Sports' David Rutter told Eurogamer. "The FIFA that you're now playing - we've been working on that for about 18 months maybe. But there's been a lot of preparation and pain before that."
"There were two things we did straight away," said Rutter. "One was bump it up to 1080p and see if it made a difference, because 1080p's expensive. It's a lot of graphics. We were sceptical going into it, but came out being glad we did it, because it makes a significant difference. That was the most performance expensive thing we did initially."
The second part of the next-gen FIFA team's plan was to address player behaviours, and address some of the less authentic parts of the series. "We've always been, probably, at the forefront of animation technology in a videogame. We've got roughly ten times the animation on Xbox One and PS4 than on current gen consoles. We wanted to improve the behaviours of the players and the AI. A lot of that is around physics and decision making and the way they move, and we've got roughly four times the processing of decisions."
Rutter went into a little more detail on how exactly that will play out in next-gen FIFA 14. "The feature's called Pro Instincts, and it's based around the processing power of the new consoles allowing us to have players almost predict the future. The player on the pitch is running along and a tackle comes in ahead of him. Currently two things happen - he either hits the leg or he doesn't hit the leg. This new generation of consoles we have every nuance of possible collision, and trying to position himself not to collide."
The last big addition for FIFA 14 on next-gen is crowds. "Nearly every interview I've had in the last few years has said when are we going to get good crowds. There's two parts to that - there's good crowds and then there's why do they want good crowds. It's not that the crowds just look nice - it's that there's atmosphere and soul."
The extra processing power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 now allow for fully rendered crowds rather than row upon row of cut-outs, and Rutter believes it makes a substantial impact on the game. "When you're looking up into the stands and it goes absolutely nuts - even for us in the team when you see those shots it's absolutely amazing. It's got no effect on gameplay, but what it does is reinforce the emotion when you're playing, which is quite a deep thing."
Rutter and his team are confident of a better debut this generation than last time out - FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup was a lowlight of the first wave of Xbox 360 games, stooping to a 2/10 review back in November 2005. "In a sense, it's not only awful, but it's also sabotaging everybody else's efforts at the same time," wrote Tom at the time.
"We were showing playable builds at E3 which I don't think would have been possible last time," said Rutter. "It's on the show floor and we're not there screaming 'Oh my God!'"
There's a little extra emphasis on FIFA 14 this time out as it's now one of the main incentives to buy an Xbox One after Microsoft announced it'll be bundling copies in for free for pre-orders in select countries. The Xbox One also gets Ultimate Team Legends, an exclusive game mode that sprinkles names such as Pele and Lineker in the popular team-building part of FIFA. Is that a timed exclusive, or will we see it come to PlayStation in due course?
"It's for the duration of FIFA 14," said Rutter. "What happens in the future I have no idea. It's the way of the world."
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